Wild weather in Portsmouth
I have been lucky with the weather the last two or three years at the Portsmouth Victorian Christmas Festival so I suppose it was tempting fate that there would be another late November calm and sunny winter weekend. It was certainly the worst weather of the last few years and my usual wild camping site in the D Day Museum carpark in Southsea was certainly a wild three-night stay. It was like being on board ship as the wind and rain slammed into the lorry and I was kept awake with worrying how the stage would be faring in the 50 and 60 mph winds.
I needn’t have worried as when I arrived every morning the stage was still there and stalwartly resisting all the weather being thrown at it. It seemed to say to me, “Haven’t you any faith in your own design?” Actually of course I have, but I’m an eternal worrier. Always have been and probably always will be. The worst time is 3.00 am. The witching hour. I can only seem to sleep through it if I’ve taken a Nytol. Podcasts help but mostly they are a distraction rather than a therapy, with the possible exception of Garrison Keilor’s Prairie Home Companion News from Lake Wobegon series which always lulls me to sleep with a smile on my face. I also like The Skeptic’s (sic) Guide to the Universe. It often takes a few playings overnight before I manage to have heard them through to the end.
So November has been vile for weather. Darkest and wettest for a while. As I write this a few days later the rain and wind are again buffeting the lorry despite the shelter afforded by the wall of the workshop.
I’m back in Chester for a few days and have been presenting the latest Cat’s Paw Theatre piece in schools in North Wales. As you know we present a forum theatre presentation about rape and sexual consent for Year 9s across North Wales. I had a letter from a key worker at the local Sexual Assault Referral Centre that brought tears to my eyes so I will copy it here:
Hope all well, just thought you might like to hear about something that happened last week.
I was supporting a young woman on a rape trial in Crown Court. I’ve been working with her for a while but had never heard the detail of the assault or what happened. She had very bravely decided to give her evidence in court, with screens and asked me to go in with her and just sit behind her to be supportive.
It came out in her evidence that she had been at school watching a play about sexual violence and during the play the group was told that if you change your mind half way through sex, even if it started out as consensual, but you change your mind, it’s still rape. This young person had been in this situation with the boyfriend - had consented to sex, but then he got rough and unpleasant, she asked him to stop and he wouldn’t. The young person had no idea that this was rape, so obviously this was a bit of a lightbulb moment for her. She still found it very difficult to process what had happened to her but she started to view her (abusive) relationship differently. The boyfriend went onto rape her again and she found the courage to go to the police.
The young man was found guilty on one of the three counts of rape and sentenced to 30 months.
I went out to see her yesterday and asked her a bit about the play she had seen – my ears had pricked up a bit when it was mentioned in court, and sure enough, it was one of your productions. I told her I know you and a bit about the work we have been doing together and she said I could share her story with you. So, well done, because Cats Paw were a big part of the process of realising what had happened and being able to seek help and ultimately getting justice.
I guess we couldn’t ask for a stronger validation of the important work we do and I am grateful to and proud of the other members of Cat’s Paw and thanks to the Welsh Assembly Government for continuing to sponsor this initiative.
All the best from a road near you,